After winning his 5th consecutive title, can Jimmie Johnson be considered the greatest driver ever in NASCAR? It’s the big debate that has been going on since the final race of the season took place at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov 21.
In terms for number of consecutive championships won, Jimmie is head and shoulders above the rest. No driver had won more than 3 in a row, until 2009, when Johnson won his 4th straight. Now he has extended his own record to 5. However, some people will point out that all his championships have been won under NASCAR’s, much debated, “Chase for the Sprint Cup” format which was introduced in 2004. If you look at the champions using the old system, Johnson would only have won 2 championships.
|2004||Jeff Gordon (5)||Kurt Busch|
|2005||Tony Stewart (2)||Tony Stewart|
|2006||Jimmie Johnson||Jimmie Johnson (1)|
|2007||Jeff Gordon (6)||Jimmie Johnson (2)|
|2008||Carl Edwards||Jimmie Johnson (3)|
|2009||Jimmie Johnson (2)||Jimmie Johnson (4)|
|2010||Kevin Harvick||Jimmie Johnson(5|
An interesting side note is if that the classic points were still in effect, Johnson’s team mate Jeff Gordon would now have 6 championships and be just behind the late, great Dale Earnhardt and the King Richard Petty in total championships won. Instead, he is still behind both of them and now Johnson.
Another interesting stat is Johnson has the 6th best winning percentage in NASCAR history:
Overall all-time winning percentage: [drivers with over 100 starts]:
1. Herb Thomas — 21.053% (48 wins, 228 starts)
2. Tim Flock — 20.856% (39/187 or 40/187)
3. David Pearson — 18.293% (105/574)
4. Richard Petty — 16.892% (200/1184)
5. Fred Lorenzen — 16.456% (26/158)
6. Jimmie Johnson — 16.208% (53/327)
7. Fireball Roberts — 16.019% (33/206)
8. Junior Johnson — 15.974% (50/313)
9. Cale Yarborough — 14.821% (83/560)
Johnson also have the 2nd best top 5 percentage behind Jeff Gordon and leads all active drivers in top 10 percentage and he has yet to finish outside the top 2 in any of the seasons in which he has taken part.
Is Johnson the greatest ever? In my opinion he is the best driver on the current grid, but not the greatest of all time. That honour still lies with Petty and Earnhardt, due to their higher number of race wins and championships. However, at age 35, Johnson has plenty of time on his side and based on the stats he has racked up so far in his career and he is with the best team around right now. He can easily reach 7 championships and could even take more than that.